Screening across San Diego are some of the oldest theaters in the county still charming residents and tourists today. While not all of them have kept their projectors from day one, they nevertheless have maintained their allure as the top 5 theaters providing us, our families, and our friends quality entertainment since 1912.
1. Coronado Village Theater
Designed from the vision of Joseph Musli to the hands of Brian White and Ronald Wright, this old-time locale has been flaunting much more than first-run films since its opening in 1947. With its sole location a mere few blocks from the Coronado Bridge, the venue’s appeal extends beyond the waters of Coronado Island to greater San Diego. Inside the theater, three screening rooms encompass the 9,000 square-foot building. While the main screening room, known as the Terrazzo, holds 215 reclining chairs, 38 seats in the Balboa Room and the Exposition Room invite guests to embrace a more intimate setting. Amongst the prime location and warm welcome of the ushers, the true stand out feature of this venue is the Terrazzo’s Art Deco interior: Two skyline murals of Coronado Island offer locals a hometown tribute and tourists a map they won’t ever forget.
2. South Bay Drive-in
Brushing the edge of Interstate 5 in Imperial Beach is a retro cinematic experience well worth the drive. Open since 1958, this community treasure immortalizes the classic drive-in feel with its nostalgic snack bar and laid-back atmosphere perfect for budget-conscious families, first daters, and regular movie buffs alike. Operating 7 days per week year round, soak in the San Diego skyline above three giant screens playing two films for the price of one ($9 per adult. $1 per child). A unique feature of this venue rests in its doubling function as an outdoor swap meet Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays.
3. Spreckles Theater
Nestled in the heart of San Diego’s Downtown Theater District on Broadway, the Spreckles Theater is one of the most historic and renowned venues in the county. 1,463 seats line the tri-level theater initially hosted as an Opera house after its opening in 1912; later as a motion picture hub; and finally as a live theater for presentations today. Designated as a National Historic Site in 1973, the Spreckles Theater has been hosting some of the most internationally renowned talent for over 100 years and counting.
4. Ken Cinema
The opening of Ken Cinema in 1946 marked this theater as the first to bring San Diego quality foreign films. Operated by Landmark since 1975, this Kensington film hub prides itself on screening independents, as well as restored classics, in a simple setting remnant of its time constructed. As San Diego’s last single-screen theater, an air of exclusivity oozes from its curtains drawing crowds of moviegoers back to this venue time and time again.
5. Birch North Park Theater
The Birch Theater is a true favorite amongst North Park locals. Originally a multi-functional space featuring a live open stage, a moveable orchestra pit, and a projection room, this theater said goodbye to motion picture exhibitions in 1974 to fully devote itself to vibrant live theater performances. Built in 1928, this vintage venue stands out as one of a kind for its architectural achievements and seating occupancy of 730, making it the only theater in San Diego of its size.
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